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tv   The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  September 10, 2010 5:00pm-6:59pm EDT

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this is from donna west. she says, hey, rick, knowing your great sense of humor are you going to address john stewart's send a twit a tweet campaign? go to the next one. you should send a copy of "conventional idiocy" over to john stewart so he understands the power of tweets. i wanted to see how excited you would be if he tweeted you. >> he doesn't get what we do that guy. love you, john. also, suzanne malveaux, here is "the situation room." >> thanks, rick. happening now president obama's strongest defense yet of the right to build an islamic center near ground zero. this hour, his struggle to prevent antimuslim anger from exploding tomorrow. nine years after the september 11 attacks. also the president is putting republicans on notice. he is going to keep holding them accountable, blaming him for the nation's economic mess right up to election day. we'll have a reality check on his news conference and the lines of attack. and a night of red hot terror leaves a california town in
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ruins and in mourning. the site of a deadly gas explosion now is being called a crime scene. wolf blitzer is off today. i'm suzanne malveaux and you're in "the situation room." on this september 10th president obama held his first formal news conference in months knowing full well that he would be asked about september 11. right now antiislamic anger may be more intense than at any time since the terror attacks exactly nine years ago tomorrow. now, among the reasons why, that plan to build an islamic center and mosque near ground zero. and a florida pastor's threat to burn korans. today the president was asked about both of these controversies and here is what he said about the islamic center. >> this country stands for the proposition that all men and
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women are created equal, that they have certain inalienable rights. one of those inalienable rights is to practice their religion freely. and what that means is that if you could build a church on a site, you could build a synagogue on a site, if you could build a hindu temple on a site, then you should be able to build a mosque on the site. >> now, as of this moment we are told the islamic center project is still on and a short while ago we got new confirmation that the reverend terry jones is not going to go ahead with his koran burning protest at least not tomorrow. we're going to have more on that ahead. but right now i want to bring in our senior white house correspondent ed henry. ed, the president today obviously was prepared to talk about the mosque and the koran. >> sure. >> but he wanted to talk about something else, 53 days
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obviously before the mid term elections. >> he wanted this to be about the economy. they still feel inside the white house this was a successful week. he had the big speech in milwaukee monday, cleveland wednesday now this news conference largely dominated about the economy, able to talk about some of the details of his new proposals but it's a lot of ground that's been covered before. you're right. so the ground on the mosque that you just played was really his most full defense for that community center near ground zero. you'll remember a few weeks ago it sounded like he was coming out for it then he walked it back a little. now he is very clearly saying, look. they have a constitutional right to do it and let them move forward if they want to. on the koran burning he also was prepared on that and very clearly said, look. likewise i understand there are constitutional rights here but i also wear the hat of commander in chief and you are just going to put troops in harm's way if this goes forward. so they're breathing a sigh of relief at the white house that it looks like it's not going to go forward. >> we know the president even during his campaign was all about bringing people together
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whether bipartisanship or whether it was about trying to get the country to come together, reset the button in the middle east relations. how did he respond or react today in light of what's happening? >> he clearly was trying. it was interesting that on the economy since he had covered a lot of this ground maybe he didn't sound quite as passionate but on all of these questions he got several of them about, you know, sort of why it appears that islam is under attack, why there is such suspicion in the united states about muslims right now, nine years after 9/11, and he was trying to say, look. there is economic anxiety. that is going to make people frustrated, maybe not as trusting. and he also said that surprisingly this is something i really admire he said about president bush. after 9/11 he brought people together and made clear we're not at war with islam. here's how he put it. >> our enemies are al qaeda and their allies, who are trying to kill us but have been -- have killed more muslims than just about anybody on earth. you know, we have to make sure
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that we don't start turning on each other. and i will do everything that i can as long as i am president of the united states to remind the american people that we are one nation under god and we may call that god different names but we remain one nation. >> as you know, he has tried to have this outreach to the muslim world. he is frustrated some of that hasn't worked out because of so much suspicion out there but also interesting that after he said look we are all one nation under god he quickly added, i use my christian faith to get me through as president. no doubt a reference to the fact that he's conscious of the fact there are some of these polls suggesting that some americans think he is muslim. he very clearly slipped that in there amid this conversation about islam. i'm a christian. >> it was also, i thought, the most clear message from the president this go round when he said before i said this clearly, i thought this was very definitive and very clear where
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he stood on the mosque. >> no doubt about it. i mean, look. when he first spoke at the white house a few weeks back, he talked about the constitutional right to build it. a lot of people read that as an endorsement. when i asked him the next day in florida he appeared to walk that back a little bit because of the controversy. today there was sort of no hedging. he just said if you can build a church there you can build a synagogue there, you can build a mosque there. that sounds like an endorsement all right. thank you, ed. appreciate it. now on to california and the investigation into a gas explosion and massive fire. residents of a decimated neighborhood say they smelled fumes for weeks. now at least four people are dead and their community looks like hell on earth. our cnn's ted rawlins is in san bruno, california. take a look at the pictures and the developments overnight. it is so tragic when you see this. >> reporter: yeah, the pictures really are astounding, suzanne. you wonder how anybody in the immediate area could have survived but right now the death
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toll is four. we just talked to the fire chief. he says at this point nobody else has been reported missing. now it doesn't mean they won't find more potential victims here and they are still looking. they've gone through about 75% of the area but the remaining 25% of the area is simply too hot to continue to search. they're wait forging for that tl down and then will go in to complete the search. once that is done the investigation begins in earnest. the gas company out here has not had an opportunity to go into that exact area where this pipe split to analyze it. they are working with the ntsb that is leading this investigation and they are also already answering to some folks in the neighborhood who have come forward and said that they smelled gas in the weeks prior to this explosion. here is one example of that. >> i don't know how anybody cannot repair a smell like that and not find that smell. especially going to neighborhoods and there are other neighborhoods that have smelled the same smell. really strong. >> and for how long have you
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smelled this? >> a good three weeks. >> what did they tell you to do? >> when they came out they said shut the door and go inside the house. that was it. >> reporter: we have met several other people who have come forward with similar stories saying that they did smell something in the days and weeks leading up to this explosion. whether or not those two are connected of course remains to be seen and willeqre an investigation. again, four fatalities at this point, 52 injuries. many of those severe burn injuries. a lot of people hospitalized here tonight and a lot of families of course have had their worlds turned upside down. >> ted, tell us about the possibility of the missing. given the severity of the fire and the explosion, do they expect that they'll see, discover additional remains? >> well, the fire chief says that they are acting in a search-and-rescue mode at this point not rescue, a search mode and because the reality of it,
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if you look at that inferno and the epicenter of where this happened, the odds of anybody surviving that or having much left are very low. so they are using cadaver dogs to help them in that search but they're keeping their fingers crossed that it's possible there could just be a total of four fatalities, which would be amazing when you look at those pictures. >> unbelievable. thank you, ted. appreciate it. well, president obama kicked off the democrats' fall campaign this week by going after republicans over and over and over again. how long is he going to blame the gop and george bush for the state of the economy? and the hopes of those american hikers held in iran now are dashed. we'll tell you why the plans to free one of them have been canceled. ot just a warran.m verage everythinge do it's beln it's a yea 50 milpromise. wi complenta schemaintee and /7 roaide assiance.
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tax cuts for the middle class, not the wealthy. going to bring in our senior congressional correspondent dana bash. you've been talking to sources on the hill. what do you make of whether anything can happen before election day? >> reporter: on this issue it is really unclear in talking to democratic sources who are trying to figure out the answer to that question themselves. it's mostly because of division among democrats. we do understand that the president's idea and what he campaigned on to do away with taxes for people who are families making $250,000 or more and instead keep those tax cuts for those making less, middle class americans, so to speak, that is something agreed upon by both the house speaker and the senate majority leader. they believe and they hope that politically that's a good strategy to deal with what they are very worried about and that is the lack of enthusiasm among the democratic base. they think going back and saying, look. we are doing away with something that we think was unfair from
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the bush era and that is those tax cuts for the wealthy. they think that will help get the democratic base riled up but the problem is that not everybody in the democratic caucus agrees with that. in the senate there are three democratic senators, one independent, who say they believe the tax cuts should be extended for all americans, including the wealthiest americans, and in the house we spoke to a democratic leadership today who said there are a number of moderate democrats who also believe that it would be politically terrible for them to go back home and say that they only voted to extend tax cuts for the middle class when they know their opponents are going to say, oh, they said they voted or that they're not voting to extend those for small businesses for example. there are lots of ideas on the table. it is going to be topic number one, suzanne, when both the house and senate come back next week and private meetings on both sides of the capitol they'll be discussing this and trying to figure out how to deal with it and proceed. >> it seems clear that the president is dealing not only with the opposition from republicans but also within his own party. thank you very much, dana.
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appreciate it. >> thank you. >> joining us now our cnn senior political analyst david gergen and gloria borger. when the president is blaming the republicans on the economy, the state of the economy, president bush, when does that stop? i mean, is there a statute of limitations? when does it end? he says you know what? i'm now responsible for moving forward at this point. >> right. i think it's getting close. i think when you talk to folks at the white house they'll say to me, look. he's not blaming him anymore. he's kind of reminding people how deep we were in this ditch and how it's going to take a long time to get out of it. so what he's essentially doing is asking people to be patient and remember that it was ten years building this economic disaster we've been in so it is going to take a bit of time to get out.
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and remind people that the republicans as the president would say would want to do more of the same old same old that got us into the problem we're in right now. >> david, what do you think? i mean, do you think that after the mid-term elections there is the possibility that voters will then, and potentially the democrats, will lose control of the house? they'll say, okay. now it's your problem. it's your mess. we're not blaming the republicans anymore. >> you know, democrats ran against herbert hoover in the great depression, what, for 20 years, 30 years? more than a little generation and i think the obama white house is going to continue to point the finger of blame at president bush and his team at least until the economy regains its vigor. that is going to be their chief argument. i don't think it's doing much to rally the democrats yet but what i do think is working some is putting heat on congress about what they'reoing to do between now and the end of the year. he is just on the verge of a
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modest victory. he put the heat on the republicans over this small business bill to aid small business and yesterday he got senator voinovich a republican from ohio to break ranks with the republicans. that should give him 60 votes to pass that bill. i think he may have the next week or two, dana would know the timing more, may well have a victory on that one. >> i think the problem for this white house is that he is trying to prove a negative, which is, life would have been worse if you continued with the bush economic policies. it is still not good. i feel your pain. we have a long way to go but it would have been worse. and that is a very hard thing to explain to the american people. >> i want you to look at this poll. maybe it indicates his strategy is the right strategy and is. you look at the unfavorables here.
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george bush at the top of the list with 53% unfavorable opinion. sarah palin follows. nancy pelosi. then obama at 45% and joe biden. >> right. >> does it not show that perhaps he is making that demarcation, perhaps people, their memories are long? they aren't going to forget so quickly? >> bush himself is unfavorable and in talking to democrats when they do their own polling, for their congressional committees, bush economic policies are unfavorable but republican economic policies are not necessarily unfavorable, which is why you keep raising the name of george w. bush. >> david, does this surprise you when you take -- go ahead and then i want to ask you a follow up. >> no, no. i don't think the bush numbers surprise me. if anything i think it's what is surprising is how close the obama disapproval is to the bush disapproval. there isn't much of a gap there. there was a huge gap just a year or so ago. i do think, and i'd be interested in what gloria has to say but there was a wrinkle
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introduced today about tax cuts which is new, a procedural wrinkle to break the tax cuts and then vote on what everybody agrees on, continued tax cuts for people under $250,000, have that vote and wait on the vote for the more affluent and break that apart. that is an interesting trend. i don't think they can get it done procedurally but if they could the president could get a victory there as well. i'm not sure. gloria? >> well, it could be, i think it was more of a political statement than anything else, david. one other thing he did today which was kind of interesting, he sort of said the wealthy will also benefit. on your first $200,000 of income you'll get a tax break toonchts he hasn't mentioned that before. >> he has not. >> a new emphasis which is important. unfortunately, david, real quick it is going to be dwarfed by the tax increases. >> of course but why not mention it, right? >> all right.
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thank you very much. well, there is a glimmer of hope if you can believe this for the 33 miners trapped hundreds of feet under ground in chile. could rescuers be one step closer to freeing them? plus, everybody is going to want to hear this. your morning caffeine fix may soon cost you more. details ahead. ♪ [ male announcer ] your first day. you try to lie low, get the lay of the land. but then calls your interior lexus quiet. and automobile magazine
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we're monitoring some of the other top stories coming into the situation room right now. hey, fred, good to see you. >> hello, everyone. a federal court in california has ruled that the military's controversial don't ask don't tell policy which bars gays from openly serving is unconstitutional. the government is now expected to ask for a temporary injunction preventing the ruling from immediately going into effect. president obama is already pushing for repeal of the policy, a bill that would overturn it following a pentagon review is before congress. and new hope for 33 miners trapped hundreds of feet underground in chile. a large oil platform expected to help rescuers drill faster is now on site. two additional procedures are also under way. officials caution that the
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miners who have been trapped since the beginning of august may not be reached until december. suzanne, i know how much you like your java. apparently your morning caffeine fix could cost you a little more. bad weather in south america is threatening coffee crops sparking higher prices in the u.s., bagged coffees from companies like folgers and maxwell house have already gone up significantly but coffee houses could be spared. their prices are determined individually. maybe if you go to your favorite shop you'll be all right. >> how are we going to deal with this? how will we survive? it's terrible. >> we'll all be a little more frazzled than usual. >> we don't want that. >> except me. i am a tea drinker. >> got to have my fix. thanks, fred. >> all right. well, as the nation marks nine years since the september 11 attacks, something is driving a wedge between the families that lost loved ones that day. we're going to explain and why
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some christians in iraq are saying they are afraid for their lives on this 9/11. when you approach things from a different perspective, you don't end up with just another car. you end up with the all-new saab 9-5 luxury sport sedan.
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here in the situation room happening now a california neighborhood erupts in flames after a deadly gas line explosion. could the same thing happen where you live? our brian todd is investigating. plus, leaky pipes and power outages at the white house? we will take you behind the scenes of a renovation project costing you hundreds of millions of dollars. wolf blitzer is off today. i'm suzanne malveaux. you're in "the situation room." the american people are just hours away from marking the day that this country and the world changed forever. nine years after the terror attacks that killed almost 3,000 people. many victims' relatives will join together tomorrow to grieve as well as remember. their ties are being tested by a plan to build an islamic center and mosque near ground zero. >> it's not a small mosque.
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it is not far from the site. it is right on top of where they were murdered. >> in my mind this is actually a good thing. we cannot fight all billion muslims in the world. >> these people share a deep pain here at the world trade center site where both lost a brother in the attack nine years ago. yet they split sharply over the planned islamic community center that would include a mosque two blocks from here. robert lost his brother david who worked at tower one yet he argues muslims should be able to build a community center here. >> have we forgotten what happened at 9/11? >> he fears opponents of the plan including many 9/11 families are threatening the civil rights of muslims. >> they are being hounded out. they're being shouted down. that is just not what america should stand for. >> i would shout from the top of
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any tower to protect my city. i want to make sure that $100 million isn't coming from saudi arabia or coming from the very hands that funded the 9/11 terrorist attacks. >> rosaline lost her brother sean a firefighter based across the street in this fire house. she says she knows sean would want her to speak out to defend t the area that became his grave site and she states she is doing so without any bias against muslims. >> it is not against the muslim people but it is a sensitivity that putting a mosque here, where perhaps there may be some people sympathetic to what the terrorists did that day. that is not acceptable to me. >> when you hear them say this is a community center open to everybody that doesn't do it for you. >> at the end of the day it's an islamic, cultural center with a mosque. it's a big center and it'll
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bring lots and lots of muslim people gathered here so close to ground zero. >> americans who have shared unimaginable pain who have cried on others' shoulders are now in some cases at odds over the latest controversy, an islamic center near the site of their tragic loss. cnn, new york. >> the obama administration will be represented at all three sites of the 9/11 attacks tomorrow. the president will be at the pentagon, vice president biden at ground zero, and michelle obama the first lady will be joined by former first lady laura bush in shanksville, pennsylvania. a florida pastor's on again off again threat to burn korans is apparently off again. as we reported there is new confirmation that the 9/11 protest has been canceled but what if he or somebody else decides to burn muslim holy books tomorrow or any other day? it is a prospect that is striking fear in the hearts of
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some christians in iraq. >> reporter: suzanne, christians we spoke to at a church in baghdad said they were shocked, angered, and terrified. they said that one man in florida had no right to endanger their lives and the lives of so many others. ♪ >> all these people's lives are in danger anyway. but now they're in serious danger. >> on friday in baghdad, inside st. george's church the choir rehearsed. at the mosque next door muslims preyed but the sense of serenity is once more in serious jeopardy. >> the message to this pastor in florida is, think about those of us who have been killed by your action. think about what you're doing. what you are doing may seem nice
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in america, but here in baghdad, it means death. i had the military colonel and the iraqi colonel come the night before last and say, they have threatened to blow you up. and your church because of what's happened in florida. >> kennan andrew white has been in iraq since 1998 a time when islam and christianity peacefully co-existed. but the christian community was not spared the sectarian warfare that gripped the nation. over the years st. george's was hit half a dozen times. >> we used to have a million christians in iraq. we now only have about 200,000. and every week more and more are leaving. >> reporter: he considers the children here his own, depending on them for support due to his multiple sclerosis. for their part, they depend on him just as much for guidance.
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white believes that extremist actions wherever they are carried out do not reflect the majority. >> the majority of muslims are not against us and just yesterday a statement was released saying, take time. think about what you're doing. do not affect the christians or the churches here in iraq. he spoke words of peace more than that christian in florida has spoken words of peace. >> reporter: talk of peace amidst a threat of violence. already in the shia slum of sadr city some people are vowing if this koran burning takes place there will not be a single christian left alive in all of iraq. 17-year-old serena and 20-year-old daud have these
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words for a pastor thousands of miles away. >> i wish just to go to america for five minutes to talk to him. i say, i will give all the fault to him. everything will happen. >> as cannon white watches his children he says he can't help but wonder if it's the last time he will ever see them sing. canon white told us he used to think about the future but these days only focuses on the now. he says he has given up on thinking of what will happen for years today instead focusing on today and maybe tomorrow. >> thank you. well, republicans are borrowing a page from the democrats' 2008 playbook in hopes of reclaiming control of congress on election day. we'll show you how their strategies are playing out on television. just when it seemed as though there was a breakthrough for those jailed u.s. hikers in iran, there is now heart break instead.
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a dramatic new setback for one of the three american hikers jailed in iran. our mary snow is monitoring the details and joins us with the very latest of this story. it looks like it really is quite a sad turn. >> it is but there are conflicting reports. just hours before sarah shourd was scheduled to be released from an iranian prison the iranian labor news agency reported she will not be released tomorrow as previously announced. asked why a prosecutor was quoted as saying the judicial process is incomplete. now, the office of the iranian president is using the word "postponed." 32-year-old sarah shourd has been held along with shane bour and josh fattal for more than a year. they were detained in july of 2009 after they went into iraq hiking. the three americans allegedly crossed an unmarked border. their families say if they did that it was an accident. iran has accused them of spying. now, earlier in the day before this had been announced about
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this postponement cancellation a spokesman for iran's foreign ministry was quoted by a different news agency saying iranian president mahmoud ahmadinejad was involved in the decision to release shourd citing it as a compassionate gesture to mark the end of the holy month of ramadan. but again, that came in earlier in the day before news that tomorrow's release of sarah shourd would not be happening as it had been scheduled for tomorrow morning. suzanne? >> and i know, mary, there have been some concerns about her health. do we know anything about how she's doing? >> yeah. you know, there were a lot of questions about why she was being released. what we do know about her health is her mother had expressed concerns about her health and getting her daughter the medical attention that she needs. a spokeswoman for the families says that when the mothers of the americans were allowed to visit their children in tehran back in may, that sarah told her mother that she had found a lump in her breast and there is a lot
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of concern about whether she is getting any kind of medical attention. >> we hope they're all released very soon. thank you very much for the latest update, mary. >> sure. as a contentious mid-term election day draws closer republicans are borrowing a page from the democrats' 2006 playbook. and what possessed two prison inmates to break out of jail then try to break back in? we're going to give you those details up ahead. [ male announcer ] your first day. you try to lie low, get the lay of the land. but then calls your interior lexus quiet. and automobile magazine goes comparing you to a cadillac. ♪ so much for the new kid fitting in with the rest of the class. the all new chevrolet cruze. starting under $17,000. get used to more. ♪
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we heard president obama predict today that democrats will do just fine in november if the election is about policies that move the nation forward. both parties' campaign ads are more about personalities than policies and it's getting uglier as the vote gets closer. i want to bring in our congressional correspondent brianna keilar. you've been looking at some of these really interesting ads. what do they emphasize? >> we are seeing a pattern and if you take a look at how much money is being spent here, this is how much has been spent on ads for congressional races this year so far. $73 million. and this is really just the beginning. the ad season is just now heating up. if you want to know what the democratic and republican political strategies are for
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these mid-term elections, all you have to do is turn on your tv. >> this is congressional candidate john runrunyon's hous. nice isn't it? cost millions. >> reporter: when it comes to political ads in this election cycle democrats are getting personal. >> runyon doesn't call it a house. he tried to call it a farm. he bought one donkey to get a $20,000 tax break by saying he lives on a farm. >> reporter: desperate and dishonest is what republican john runyon's campaign calls this ad by his opponent, john adler but many democrats are following the same strategy, says evan tracy, a campaign ad analyst. >> they're going basically looking for those skeletons, looking for things that will disqualify an opponent that they can then highlight in their ads so at least you can sort of win by bringing down your opponent. >> reporter: or by trying to paint them as extreme. like incumbent florida democrat susan cosmos who is using her
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opponent's own words against her. >> sand aide ambassador has strange words. >> can you think of anything that should be repealed? >> 16 and 17. we need to go back to the way our forefathers planned on having senators. >> let tallahassee politicians pick our senators? >> as democrats zero in on something negative about their opponents republicans are going a different route with their ads hoping to nationalize the elections by blaming democrats for the bad economy and accusing them of being in lock step with leaders in washington. >> joe donnelly claims he is independent but has voted with nancy pelosi 8 d with nancy pelosi 88 nancy pelosi 88% of the time. for the obama/pelosi health care plan, wall street bail out, even the $800 billion stimulus that failed. >> you could put many democrats in tough races in the exact same spot that he's in in this ad. >> right. that's the strategy right now. the president has low poll numbers, low popularity. he is the head of the democratic party right now. so the republicans are going to attach him to every race they can this fall. >> reporter: in west virginia's
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rural first district, this republican ad never even mentions the democratic opponent. >> -- had enough of record job loss, enough of barack obama and nancy pelosi? enough of the attacks on west virginia jobs? if you've had enough, david mckinley for congress. >> of course this is a total role reversal from 2006 and 2008 because then it was a referendum on president bush and the war in iraq. now it's a referendum on president obama, democratic leaders, and the economy. you are seeing democrats are doing and republicans are doing what the opposite party did just a few years ago. >> it was fascinating when you brought up the point that he never even mentioned his opponent in that ad. it was just obama and pelosi. the president today talked about policies that move us forward. is anybody talking about that, the democrats? >> this is what's interesting. this is what evan tracy pointed out. the health care bill, for instance, has been so difficult for democrats to sell and most of them are not talking about it. they're not talking about it in
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ads for sure. and so what you see, he said, is the only time you see democrats talking about be it their votes on the health care bill, the stimulus, what have you, it is as if they voted against it. the only time you see democrats using president obama in or democratic leaders in their ads is to say, i went against him. fascinating. right? >> wow. that says a lot. >> it does. >> all right. thank you. we'll see how it all unfolds. democrats are dreading the possibility that they're going to lose their majority in congress but could that force the president to do his job maybe a little better? stand by for our strategy session. and frightening. first-hand accounts of the gas explosion and inferno in california.
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increasing talk that republicans could take over the house this november, joining us in today's strategy session, two cnn contributor contributors roland martin and john from the daily beast. guys, a lot of talk about the possibility of republicans taking control of the house. we know that when clinton lost the democratic majority, he had to work harder to get things done and there was a system of checks and balances and some ar argue that perhaps president obama would be a more evidenty president if republicans were
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controlling the congress. roland, you are laughing? >> yeah, i am laughing, because i think that president bill clinton could talk about all of the special prosecutors and investigators and subpoenas that reined on his head from republicans being in control. you have republicans right now saying that they are going to launch a series of investigations against this administration. so i get the conventional wis m wisdom, but i think that it can make your life a heck of a lot more difficult. >> well, that is certainly true, but suzanne, as you were saying that the precedent that we have with clinton and gingrich, really in retrospect, even though it was harsh and it seems like a golden age of constructive cooperation, and we actually moved to a surplus and it sounds absurd, but it is true. that is what independent voters are looking for. they like the divided government, because they do believe it will force them to work together. the problem is that this environment may be so harshly
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poisonously polarized that you get dysfunction government and the system of checks and balances won't work. >> you seem he will be overwhelmed by bogus investigations, and is there any policy or any piece of legislation that you could find the republicans and this president working together on if the republicans took over? >> well, first of all, show me right now. i mean, right now, you have an example right now that the president had the news conference today, and he said to the republicans, hey, i want to push through middle-class tax cuts. join me right now, and i will sign it this month, do you actually think there is going to be any movement on that? you have a jobs bill, as it relates right now to small businesses where the democrats are saying, let's help the small businesses get lines of credit. the republicans have made it clear, no, problems with that as well. so i don't necessarily see where you are going to find that level
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of common ground. >> let's -- go ahead, john. >> well, not only that, but the proposal that the president made this week about r&d tax credit and infrastructure, and those are constructive proposals, but he is being stonewalled. and how do you sum that up? >> deficit commission. >> well, how do they come up with a unified strategy, and the president this week was in ohio and he named john boehner eight times in the speech, and obviously going after who he believes could be the next speaker, and you had the vice president on the other hand praising the former president bush when it came to iraq, and then we saw the pennsylvania governor ed rendell saying that the republicans were crazy and fru froot loops is what he called them. do they need a strategy to go into the midterm elections in a strong way? >> well, you can call them froot
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loops, but the president laid out the strategy in that you have to defend what you have done. what democrats have to do to stop being scared and go on the offensive and lay out how bad of a situation this country was in when this president came in and the tough decisions they had to make. if i'm a democrat and running, i will say, while these guys were sitting on the sidelines kicking their feet up, and criticizing us, we had to get to work to dig ourselves out of this hole. and so if you want those guys who sat around and did nothing, fine, put them in charge, but at least we tried the do something to deal with this economy, but you have to go into offensive and not the defensive and say woe is us, and we might just lose our seats >> well, strategically roland is right, and play offense and not defense, and play from a position of strength and not weakness. but we have seen president obama make a clearer case than we have seen from the white house and the administration, because the republicans are benefiting from what has been a no-bama strategy
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and strategy of opposition and they have not put forward a positive plan, and somehow the idea that the american people are voting for john boehner for speaker or john mcconnell as leader, it does not bear out, because this is look, a referendum of two divisions of governing and who do you want to drive the process of governing the country and not running in opposition to the establishment. >> john roland a avalon and rol martin, thank you both. and we have a story to tell you, which is not a breakout, be awe break-in. at northern trust, we understand...
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fredricka whitfield is monitoring the other top stories coming into "the situation room." what are you working on, fred? >> well, republican hopeful sharron angle is in hot water. the nevada top political journalist is swlaming the tea party favorite for backing out of a debate with her opponent harry reid next month. the journalist says that within hours of reid accepting the invitation to appear, angle's campaign called to say it was backing out. the new ceo of general motors won't be hurting for money, even though the federal government's bailout watchdog had to sign off on the pay. we are learning that daniel akerson scored a $9 billion compensation including $1.7 cash
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each year and gm is still under the government's thumb when it comes to executive pay after it was rebuilt from the 2009 bankruptcy. in missouri a prison break in reverse. investigators say that two men were caught trying to sneak back into jail after breaking out through a ceiling panel. they allegedly went on a joyride and searching for drugs and on the lam for at least four hours. it is believed they tried to break back into the jail to avoid a mandatory five-year sentence for escaping. s suzanne, that last thought may cost them extra time. >> appreciate it. you are here in "the situation room," and fires are still burning in a san francisco suburb almost 24 hours after a massive explosion reduced an entire neighborhood to charred rubble. and president obama urges patience and blames the gop for ailing economy. is it a message that helps the democrat as the midterm election looms? and the world watches and
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waits to see if a florida pastor will go ahead with his plan to burn copies of the koran. with the protest hours away, the message is mixed. welcome to our viewers in the united states and around the world, and wolf blitzer is off today. i'm suzanne malveaux, and you are in the strm. are in the strm. "situation room." -- captions by vitac -- we begin this hour with a fiery disaster in a quiet san francisco suburb, and it was around dinner time last night when a natural gas line ruptured in san bruno, california. it was a rupture that produced a blast that continues until this afternoon. it shot fireballs eight miles high, and it created what some call a moon scape of devastation. at least four people were killed, but search crews have not been able to get to one quarter of the area, because it is still too hot. looking at the i-reports sent in
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by our viewers, and you will get an idea of how quickly the flames spread and how massive the fire was. more than 50 people were injured, but officials that say that everyone is accounted for, and there are no reports of missing people. our cnn's casey wian is there for us. casey, give us a sense of what is happening now. >> well, suzanne, local residents were reflecting back on what happened at the time of the explosion say it felt like an earthquake, but unlike a quake, some residents say there were plenty of warning signs well in advance. >> reporter: home video captured moments after the san bruno gas oaks ploegs shot by the cousin of sheree as he went to help her escape the heat of the fireball. >> well, i felt the heat, but nothing happened to me. >> reporter: she and her father are staying with relatives in a
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home that overlooks the devastation. he says there were warning signs weeks before the explosion. >> normally, when i walked down on this spot area, and when i came down here, it smelled like gas, but i ignored it. >> reporter: he was not the only one. >> it started three weeks ago in my neighborhood, and pg&e had come out and they were working in my garage and told me to shut the door and go inside because there were strong gases, and after being in the neighborhood a little bit they packed up and left, but the real heavy smell was down the street at the next stop sign. everyday after work i would smell the heavy smell coming from the gutter and the sewer there. >> reporter: pg&e struggled to address the issue throughout the day friday. >> that is something that will be looked at in the course of the investigation, right now our focus is on the ground right now. >> well, you either did it or didn't do it, mr. jones, and you have neighbors saying a strong smell of gas, and now an explosion with dead people, and did the company go out to investigate the strong smell?
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>> again, kyra, thank you for the question, and i will continue with the investigation. >> i have heard reports that two pg&e employees had smell gas previously in tohe area, but we have not confirmed that yet, and we are looking right now at this minute what is happening. >> reporter: but he said that they have no record of crews working in the area at the time. the national transportation safety board is leading an investigation into the causes of the explosion. pg&e says it will cooperate fully. suzanne. >> casey, thank you very much. explosion that triggered all of this was so massive that residents mistook it for a more familiar disaster and this is how one man described it. >> we heard a great rumble that shook the house, and we figured it was an earthquake, but it had a completely different sound to
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it. and when i looked out the kitchen window, as far as i'm concerned, i saw what i thought was a fireball coming towards the house, and i then thought it was an airplane caught fire and going to crash. >> i want to bring in our tom foreman who is at the magic wall. tom, give us a sense of what happened there in san bruno? >> well, what happened was an inferno in one area, and move into the neighborhood and look at it before all of this happened. you can see how tightly packed together these houses are in here and an ignition source like this is a big deal. look at what happened though the change from then to what we see now. this is the amount of damage that was done. all of the houses, and i will change it back again, so you can see the difference. all of the houses, nice, tidy rows and the red line marks where the gas line itself came through and it is a 30-inch pipe that would be a feeder line that would come down here and bigger
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line and smaller lines down each street and from there smaller lines that go to the individual houses. there are millions of these in california alone and many millions of miles of them across the country. in any event, look at this, this is the neighborhood before, and this is the neighborhood after with the degree of explosion here. some of the pictures show you the kind of images we have been seeing all day. one thing we are studying is the degree to which the simple intensity of the heat was at work here. this sort of fire, a natural gas fire is going to burn at about 3600 degrees fahrenheit which is very, very hot as you might guess. but how hot is that? well, one of the issues is that homes that are very close in here and this is the blast site in here, by the way, and many of these would be swept into the immediate blast of it, but other homes, because of the intensity of this heat could actually burst into flames even though they were never touched by this. it only takes about one-third of that much heat to cause a house to spontaneously come bust.
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actually less than one-third, and that can happen in as best we can tell from the calculations and the wind and everything else, less than one minute you could have a house over here not touched by the blast, but simply start cooking so quickly, it would burst into flames. this is enough heat to melt stainless steel, and enough to melt aluminum, so when you look at the immediate area here, what a lot of the investigators are going if look at is how much of this is the actual blast, and how much of it was the heat and the radiant heat from the blast and then when you look at the spread of it down here to the other sites, a little further down, what you are possibly talking about here is the spread of a fire like you would have in a wildfire where it was leapfrogging to another section, and you will notice, a lot of damage over here near the ignition point, and it is over here and not so much over here, but you have to look at the topography here and we can't show it here, suzanne, but this is along the ridge of the hill. you see the trees here? that is falling away here and
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naturally the fire will stay up on the hill or the ridge and not run down as much. so i assume that by the time they finish the investigation, the blast damage will be focussed in this area, and the blast in the intense, intense radiant heat we were talking about, and there have been studies done if you were standing here and survived the initial blast how quickly you would need to run away so that the radiant heat did not kill you where you stood. because, you simply have a matter of seconds to get under way and get away from it, because it is so unbelieve bli hot and standing near a piece of the sun. >> and we heard stories from the residents talking about how they literally tried to escape and run and get in the cars or that type of thing, but what makes this disaster unique is the fact that the fire was able to spread in so many kinds of ways. >> absolutely. you have the same problem with the wildfire. you have an intense fire like this that can spread, but it is complicated by the intensity of the heat that allows it to leapfrog any exposed surface over here, and anything that was shielded a little bit wouldn't
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have felt so much of the raid yan yant heat, but anything exposed to it, it is coming on really fast. that is how it explains when people say, i was driving away with the bumper melting off of the car, and that can happen, because in the moments most exposed here, you are talking about a kind of heat that most of us rarely encounter at this sort of level. so investigators are looking hard here, suzanne, and then down here, you will be looking more at the spread of the wildfire where once it started, you had the fire feeding upon itself and growing through all of the houses. so, a lot of the investigation to figure out what to do exactly of how all of this is cataclysmic. >> yes, thank you for the explanation, tom. appreciate it. many of the residents didn't even know that there was a natural gas pipeline in the neighborhood, and there are millions of americans who probably don't either. how many of them are living near a hidden danger. also, president obama pushes the campaign message on the
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economy, but is there enough time before the midterm election to make a difference? plus, members of a german church talk about their former pastor and that is the one who is threatening to burn copies of the koran and they are telling their side of the story that few people know. i want to give my 5 employees health insurance,
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calm down. i know that it is not your job. what i'm saying... excuse me? alright, fine. no, you don't have to do it. ok? [ male announcer ] notre dame knows it's better for xerox to control its printing costs. so they can focus on winning on and off the field. [ manager ] are you sure i can't talk -- ok, no, i get it. [ male announcer ] with xerox, you're ready for real business. the u.s. economic recovery painfully slow in the words of president obama. he fielded multiple questions on the topic at the white house news conference this morning. it was his first in almost four months or so, but the midterm
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elections looming, he drew sharp distinctions between republicans and democrats. he laid blame of the recession at the feet of the gop. >> we came into office with a different view about how our economy should work. instead of tax cuts for millionaires, we believe in cutting taxes for middle-class families and small business owners. we have done that. instead of letting corporations play by their own rules, we believe in making sure that businesses treat workers well, and consumers friendly, and play by the same rules as everyone else. so, we have put in place common sense rules that accomplish that. if you want the same kinds of skewed policies that led us to this crisis, then, the republicans are ready to offer that. but if you want policies that are moving us out, even though you may be frustrated, even though change is not happening as fast as you'd like, then i
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think that democrats are going to do fine in november. >> i want to talk more about that with our own cnn's john king who hosts "john king usa" top of the hour, and candy crowley who hosts "state of the union" sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m. eastern. obviously, the president was making a distinction and trying to appeal to democrats and saying, you know, in the short term, i understand that you are hurting, but stick with me in the long term, because obviously, things will be better in the long term, and does he have that kind of time, candy, when people are out of work and need to pay the mortgages yesterday? >> well, that is the problem that the elections with nr the short term, and so it is really very hard to talk to people about the long term when it is as something as close to home as it is the loss of jobs or loss of house or inability to pay for a college education, it is a tough sell, but what the president is hoping by making remarks like this is to trigger
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in the back of faithful democrats who might be disenchanted because they didn't get all they wanted from the presidency so far to say stick with me and come on out and vote because i can't do it unless you stick with me. that is the audience and not those disaffected and going to vote against him. >> that is a great point, candy. if you poll any big race in the country and poll registered voters and get a dead heat between the fine candidates sandy and suzanne, then the likely voter of one of you who is a republican is ahead three or four points, and the white house sees the intensity gap, and that is the priority of the white house saying to people on the left, maybe you are mad at me about something and troops in afghanistan ap maynd maybe not public option in health care, but if you don't come out to vote, you will be more mad. >> well, is the president running out of time with 53 days left? >> well, you never run out of time to get the vote out. you can send out the buses, and
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send out the vans and the people who knock on doors, so you never run out of time for that, but he has run out of time to convince people who are unconvinced that the economy is getting better. that argument is over for this year. >> yeah, the strategic draft of this election, and the arc of the election is set, and economic anxiety and tough economy and the republicans making a good case so far that the stimulus did not give it what they would give you and that money has been spent for little gain. but to candy's point, the nults and bolts of seven weeks of identifying people and the money decisions and the decisions to make over the next few weeks are fascinating. cutting off some candidates to give to other, a stlnd is a lnd lot of time for the candidates. and they did prove in 2008, they are very good at the nuts and bolts. >> anything in terms of the economic numbers or jobs numbers and maybe one more set to kick those out that might get people's attention to think again or is that really?
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>> well, it is at 9.6, the president's administration has said they think it might go to 10.0 by the end of the year, but even if it doesn't, what is going to happen between 9.6 or 9.2, which is mega movement, it does not feel right. if the economy is not going the feel right to voters, that is how they vote. >> if it goes down a tad, it won't help much. >> john and candy, have a good weekend. former cuban leader fidel castro said he did tell an american reporter that the cuban model does not work and he says he did not mean it. and california governor arnold schwarzenegger mocked sarah palin and we will tell you about the joke he sent off on twitter as he flew over alaska. stay in the "situation room." th. but then calls your interior lexus quiet. and automobile magazine
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fredricka whitfield is following the other top stories coming into "the situation room" right now. hi, fred. >> hello, again. a former cuban president fidel castro says he was misinterpreted when he recently told an american journalist that he said that the cuban economic model no longer works. on a speech on television castro says he was quoted correctly,
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but misunderstood. he says he was emphasizing that his opinion of capitalism is even lower. president barack obama says he is not ready to announce who will be nominated to head a new agency to protect financial consumers known as the bureau of consumer financial protection. they are part of the financial reform bill passed earlier this year. speaking at a news conference earlier this year, the president was coy about saying that harvard professor elizabeth warren is a leading candidate for the job. >> thank you. the lead of the agency is elizabeth warren's, and she is a dear friend of mine, and somebody i have known since law school, and i have been in conversations with her, and she is a tremendous advocate for this idea. >> so, remember that huge piece of ice that made headlines n ll month when it broke off of the coast of northern greenland and
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floated away? well, now it is floating into two. scientists are monitoring it with i is four times the size of manhattan said it split after slamming into a rocky island. california governor arnold schwarzenegger took a swipe at former governor sarah palin today. as he flew over alaska to a asian trade mission, he put out the follow tweet saying, looking over anchorage, alaska, and looking everywhere, but i can't see russia from here. well, as you remember during the 2008 campaign, she tried to point out that parts of russia is visible from parts of alaska, and palin has hit back at arnold schwarzenegger and took aim at the economic distress plaguing his state, and saying quote in the tweet, arnold should have landed, palin tweeted, because i could have explained the multibillion dollar state
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surplus and the security efforts. so what has he been up to? little tweet war. tweet, tweet, bam, bam. suzanne. >> thank you, fred. well, before he grabbed the world's attention with the threat of burning the koran, this pastor was the leader of a large church in germany which eventually broke ties with them, and now former followers are speak out saying that questioning him is like questioning god. and the latest on the explosion that obliterated dozens of homes near san francisco all caused by a natural gas pipeline that few even knew was there. do you know what is under your neighborhood? ever seen anything like it?
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it is still not clear whether a florida pastor will go ahead with his plan to burn copies of the koran tomorrow on the 9th anniversary of 9/11. terry jones has been giving mixed messages today. it is also unclear whether he is going to meet with new york city imam about moving a controversial islamic center away from ground zero. jones says that it was that promise that led him to initially cancel his protest, but the imam's deny any deal was made. cnn's john zarrella is in gainesville, florida, and he hayes been on the story since the beginning. john, take us up to speed to where we are today in all of this madness.
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>> well, suzanne, terry jones was out here about four or five times. i have lost count today, and as you mentioned, the story seemed to change or migrate a little bit from one appearance to the next, but in the last couple of appearances what we were told not directly by jones, but by his son, luke, and also his an evangelist k.a. paul who was by his side today there will not be a burning tomorrow. that will not happen. what happens after that, we don't know, but at this point, terry jones is saying that, pastor jones is saying that he still intends to go to new york and planning to g the new york but the interesting thing is that at one point today, jones and the evangelist said that they are going to give the imam in new york two hours to call them and tell them that in fact he will move the mosque in new york and gave out the phone numbers where the imam could call. it did not happen, and indeed,
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jones insists he is going to new york and meet with the imam if not tomorrow, but monday or tuesday. suzanne? >> well, john, give us a sense of what it is down there, has it turned into a circus or what are we seeing? >> yeah, i think that you can definitely say it is a circus. if you don't think that the entire world is watching and seeing what has been transpiring here, take a look at this. this is the set-up with all of the cameras waiting for jones to come out with the statements, and there is a podium set up there with probably 20 or 30 mike flags sticking in, there and if mike miller, my cameraman, can spin around, you can see, this is one side of the array of all of the media here, national media, international media from all over the world that have gathered here to put, to stake their part of the story and transmit to their news outlets, literally across the world, suzanne, what has been transpiring here. i have to tell you that it got a
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little bit testy this afternoon in the last appearance when jones was out here, because people, and the media has gotten to the point with this blazing heat of saying, look, enough, are you? what are you going to do? and of course, he has been evasive pretty much all day until finally we got the definitive word that it would not happen tomorrow. suzanne. >> all right. we will see if that in fact does actually, if that is the last word on all of this, but you never know with this. thank you, john. hundreds of people in cologne, germany, have been watching this unfold in interest, because they are members of jones' former church. using cnn's global resources, we found some of them speaking about their disillusionment, and what led jones to leave them. it is a compelling part of the story, and they shared it with cnn's bill black. >> reporter: for 20 years heinz and heldga copp followed their
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pastor terry jones. for 19 years they trusted his every word. >> he was a charismatic leader. he was the preference very strong for us. >> reporter: jones' church the christian community of cologne became the focus of their lives. jones insisted on it, and borrowing an infamous nazi motto. >> and we worked the whole week and also sunday and saturday. >> reporter: for the church? >> for the church, yes. >> work made free. >> reporter: is that what he said? work makes you free? >> yes. >> reporter: they say that he did not speak german when he arrived in the country, but he built a congregation of 1,000 worshippers telling them that he had been sent to germany to do his will, and he must be obeyed. >> who was bigger than god? so it was a big reason why it fell out.
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>> reporter: 3 yif you question the things that he told you to do, did he say this you were questioning god? >> yes. >> reporter: he did? >>. >> yes, he did. >> reporter: so to question terry jones is to question god? >> yes. >> yes. >> reporter: they rose through the hierarchy of the church based on the modest build manages the outskirts of the city, and they regularly traveled to jones' other church in florida. he eventually took on a key job in the church fund-raising business which sold donated g d goods for the church. what happened to that money? [ speaking foreign language ] >> we didn't know it in the beginning. he saw it, and this would have -- this goes to the church. >> reporter: they started to see other problems with the business. they say its workforce of believers were paid nothing and worshippers were convinced to
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give everything and sell their belongings, and donate everything. the control grew everywhere, personally, emotionally and financially. heinz says that after months of trying, they decided to leave the church together. then comes the day they openly stood up to terry jones. >> it was a revolution. >> it was war. >> reporter: others joined him. it was important to criticize him, and show everybody that he is human and has weaknesses. >> he left and never came back. >> reporter: that was in 2008 and the church severed ties with jones and continues today under a new relationship, and terry jones relocated permanently to his florida church, and there he has grabbed the world's attention by marking the anniversary of 9/11 by burning the koran. >> he is completely convinced that he is so to speak god's ambassador. >> reporter: pastor andrew
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schafer says he has counseled dozens of people who were damaged at his church. he cannot stand to lose his significance, and that is why he is using this issue now to try to become a big player again, and elk, and heinz are still angry with him for controlling their lives for so long. phil black in cologne, germany. we will update you on that massive gas explosion in a san francisco suburb and take a look at whether it could happen in your neighborhood. stay with us. you are in "the situation room." [ birds chirping ] [ engine revving ] [ male announcer ] what can you do with seven minutes... fifty-nine seconds and thirty-two one hundredths? [ engine revving ] maybe walk your dog around the block. or read a couple of columns on the op-ed page.
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more now on the top story of the massive explosion and fire from the natural gas pipeline that insen rated dozens of homes in san bruno, california,
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killing four people. officials saying that all people are accounted for but some areas are so hot that search crews cannot go in to look for possible victims. the disaster was shocking for many more residents who didn't even know that a pipeline was there, and there are tens of thousands of similar pipelines that are across the country, and could this happen in your neighborhood? our brian todd is investigating. brian? >> suzanne, we are taking a look at the overall safety record of the natural gas industry in the united states pegged to that explosion in california. we are here at a natural gas facility not involved in any way in the explosion, so we won't say the name of this place. i'm here with rick kesler who is with the pipeline safety trust which is a nonprofit organization that monitors the safety of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. rick, what many people are asking in the wake of the california disaster, is could that happen in any neighborhood in america? >> unfortunately, brian, it could. a lot of people don't know what is below them.
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communities have sprung up around pipelines as much as pipelines have gone in around communities, because the tax base and things like that. so it could unfortunately happen and given the lax safety enforcement of the federal government and the state lax safety laws, unfortunately, it could affect a lot of people over time, and especially with the huge growth in natural gas transportation by pipeline. >> reporter: what could trigger an explosion like that one in san bruno, california? >> anything. a lot of times it is third-party damage where someone digs and that is why you have call before you dig laws, but it could also easily be, and i know that the industry does not want me to say this, but it could be corrosion from the water or the soil above the pipeline or internally, because acid, acid -- gas is also acidic and corrosive and really could cause that. it could be faulty seams and the welding and bad steel or any number of things.
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>> reporter: is the safety and oversight of these pipelines what it should be in this country? >> absolutely not. i would say that if the organization that oversaw pipelines oversaw airplanes, we would not be flying. it is underfunded, undermanned and dependent on the industry's user fees for funding which gives the industry a leg-up. it is really not the political will i think it needs to really regulate and does not understand, but it has gotten much better than it used to be, but i'd still say it is a d-plus agency. >> this is the department of energy agency? >> yes, there are a lot of people who try hard, but they don't have much to work with and they need wholesale changes there. >> reporter: thank you, rick. we have tried to reach the organization that is the pipeline and hazardous material safety administration which is part of the department of transportation, and tried to get a hold of them to respond to
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system of the concerns that rick and other experts have talked ab, but they said they were working on a response and not able to get it to us as part of this story, but they sent an e-mail saying that every state except alaska and hawaii are to conduct and enforce the pipelines. also, we got a e-mail are the the advocacy organization called the american gas association across the country who says that safety is the number one priority, and they say that natural gas utilities are subject to not only their stringent internal controls, but also to rigorous federal and state oversight to ensure that natural gas is delivered safely and efficiently. suzanne, that is what we have from here. thank you, brian. there are new developments in the case of an american hiker held by iran for more than a year. why is her release being canceled for now? plus, details of the multi million dollar renovation that is sparking interesting theories of what is really going on.
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>> there are lots of conspiracies and saying, come on, could this really be electrical or phones or a secret tunnel they are digging? >> well, all i will tell you is that it is a very secure infrastructure project, and that is as much as i can say.
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fredricka whitfield is monitoring other top stories coming into "the situation room" right now. hi, fred. >> hello, suzanne. an iran spokesman says that the release of an american hiker has been canceled. they say that the process has not been completed. iranian officials said she would be released tomorrow, but she is one of three americans held in
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iran for more than a year knew, and the families say they mistakingly strayed across the border while hiking in the kurdistan region of iraq. iraq says they spied. and now the first living service person to receive the medal of honor after he risked his life coming to the aid of two soldiers during a firefight in 2007. the white house called staff sergeant giunta to honor him. the marketing company is com score, and they report that americans spent more than 41 million millions on facebook which is all of the web sites owned by google combined. suzanne, are you on there? >> i am on facebook.
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are you on facebook, fred? >> i am, but i can't say that i don't spend a whole lot of time. >> we don't have a whole lot of time, and we are too busy. >> you are right. every second happens. >> all right. i will befriend you, fred. >> we are always friends on and off facebook. >> thank you, fred. well, it is the only house of worship destroyed in the 9/11 terror attacks and nine years later the struggle to rebuild continues. plus, this surprising state of affairs inside of america's most famous house. we had electrical outages and lights go out and computers go down, and the kinds of things that you cannot accept in the white house. but then calls your interior lexus quiet. and automobile magazine goes comparing you to a cadillac. ♪ so much for the new kid fitting in with the rest of the class. the all new chevrolet cruze.
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in the midst of the debate over the proposed islamic center and mosque, the fate of a church there has gone unnoticed. it is the only house of worship that was actually destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. mary snow is in new york with the story. after all of this time, this church has not been built? >> yeah, and suzanne, we have seen that with anything built at ground zero, it is complicated,
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and this church is no exception. >> reporter: bp is focusing the latest operation to permanently seal the blown-out seal in the gulf. in a -- >> obviously, not the correct tape. we are hoping to correct that technical difficulty, but in a nutshell, suzanne, this is a greek orthodox church that is trying to rebuild after all of these years. suzanne. >> all right. mary, we will take a quick break and at the other side of the break, we will bring you that piece. but then calls your interior lexus quiet. and automobile magazine goes comparing you to a cadillac. ♪ so much for the new kid fitting in with the rest of the class. the all new chevrolet cruze. starting under $17,000. get used to more. ♪
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our mary snow has a special piece. mary? >> we will try it again, but this is the story of a greek orthodox church that is struggling to be rebuilt after it was destroyed on september 11th. >> reporter: this is the last known image of st. nicholas, and moments before the south tower of the world trade center collapsed, crushing the church. leaders of the tiny greek orthodox church were only able to salvage a few items. >> this is for st. nicholas and it is no more. >> reporter: along with prayer came a vow to rebuild the small church that was home to about 70 families burk kn families, but nothing has happened. >> nine years later, you look around and see all of the construction and st. nicholas is nowhere to be found, and how hard of a struggle has this been? >> trying to say the least. no doubt about that. i think that from day one, we recognized that we were a small
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piece of a very large puzzle. we have hope that we will be rebuilt on or near the original site, but to be honest at this point in time, it is probably the most frustrating. >> reporter: frustrating says this board member of st. nicholas, because the church's location is at the ground zero site, and the port authority of new york and new jersey is overseeing construction there. rebuilding includes using public money. years of negotiations have gone nowhere and with so much focus on the proposed islamic site near ground zero, the plight of st. niclas has gone unnoticed. does it bother you that christians have come out against that community center and not in support of your church? >> no, they are two entirely separate issues. >> reporter: separate, yes, but politicians stood with the proponents of the islamic center to draw attention to the stalemate saying that the port
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authority stopped negotiating. >> it is unfortunate that a controversy over a mosque brought attention to the port authority. >> reporter: they say it is st. nicholas that rejected the site of a new church. >> the question is whether or not tens of millions of public dollars should be spent to move the site to a different location on the world trade center site to bill a church six times the original church, and to make sure that any arrangement for that did not further delay the world trade center site. >> reporter: the church says it is not demanding so much space. some people say this is all about money and you want more money, and what do you say to them? >> if it were about money, we would have taken deals offered to us decades ago for st. nicolas and moved somewhere else. it has never been about money. >> reporter: what is it about? >> building near or on or about the original birth site that st.
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nicolas has to go to prior to september 11th. plain and simple. >> they say at this point work would have to begin in 2013 after construction is to begin at the site, but they hope something can be worked out before then. >> excellent story, mary. for more on this story go to the belief blog at there is a makeover in the works at 1600 pennsylvania ave neur, a knew, and it is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and should the white house be renovating in these hard economic times? i went behind the project of the hard times. >> thank you for keeping your eye on the west wing of the white house. >> well, lit continue, t.j. >> the dust and the confusion and the noise and all of the places to do construction is happening right here, the front lawn of the white house. >> reporter: it is a four-year
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renovation project. estimated cost $376 million. the basic problem, pipes up to 100 years old which are running into the white house, causing disastrous and dangerous conditions. >> this part of the white house has not been upgraded since it was built in 1902 and some upgraded in 1934, and some lines have not been upgraded since and we are digging underground to fix it up. >> reporter: tell me about the problems of the white house, because it is hard to believe that, yes, sometimes the lights go out at the white house and sometimes pipes have leaked, and really those kinds of problems here? >> there have been. there have been electrical outages at the white house. telephones have gone down. >> reporter: what happens? does the president call and say that the toilet does not flush and the lights go out? >> from the residents, itself, we have not had those issues, but the west wing has had those issues. >> reporter: the head of the general administration services is overseeing the massive
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makeover of the west wing and the situation room, and the oval office and the secret rooms of the first lady. what is happening here? >> we are digging new trenches and burying cable and water pipes. >> reporter: congress approved funding of the project in 2008 after a bush administration report reported that some systems in the white house were periodically failing. this project is going to cost some $376 million to the tax payier payiers and some would say, really? why would you spend so much on a makeover to the white house when so many folks are not doing well? >> well, we are aware that it is undergroundwork, but it does not do a whole lot of good to have a building that is sort of the image of the free world standing up there and not functioning well. and to be honest, when you are digging underground and doing this utility work particularly in the white house environment, it is a costly project.
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>> reporter: 500 workers have security clearance to work on the four acre project. in the briefing room things have been known to get boisterous, and heated, but it is nothing compared to the noise right outside in this construction zone, and it is right outside of the obama family residence. have you gotten a call, hey, this is too much noise here and we are trying to sleep here and think? >> well, we have an understanding first family, but a first family with young kids who need their sleep. >> reporter: so construction is normally limited to daylight hours, but despite the open nature of the project, it attracts suspicion. there are lots of conspiracies, is this really electrical? phones? secret tunnel they are digging? >> well, all i know is that you can imagine it is a very secure infrastructure project. that is as much as i can say. >> reporter: this construction project also affects how i do my
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job. i take eight steps to clear the fence behind me so we can do the stories of the white house. since we put that story together, there have been more changes. my colleague ed henry sent this update today. >> oh, suzanne, how they have changed. there is this big platform so that all of the networks can climb up here and get a bird's-eye view of the white house. we don't have to climb anymore ladders. in fact, we were worried about you, because we didn't want you up there climbing the ladder and going up three levels and maybe falling on your head and then you have to put the construction back on for the live shots. we have to protect you, the all-star player and reporter and anchor, and we want you in one piece. >> you, too, ed. remember, you can follow what is going on in "the situation room" with me over at the white house and on twitter and you can get my tweets at, and go